Saturday, October 09, 2010

What the Heil?

By Mustang Bobby

Richard Iott, the Republican candidate for Congress from Toledo, used to have a rather interesting hobby:

Mr. Iott appears dressed in a Nazi uniform, along with several other men, in a photo that accompanies the lead item on

The headline is “Why's a GOP Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?”

The online article by Joshua Green begins, “An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio's 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.”

So, in other words, he used to spend his weekends having a Nazi Party.

Mr. Green writes that Mr. Iott's name appears on a roster as early as 2003 of a group that re-enacts the Nazi's 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. Mr Iott told the writer that his interest in the group is “purely historical interest in World War II.”

Joining was a “father-son bonding thing,” Mr. Green quotes Mr. Iott. But he quit three years ago when his son lost interest, and so his name and photos were removed from the Wiking site, Mr. Iott told Mr. Green.

Far be it from me to offer parenting advice, but if you want to bond with your son, how about joining the Boy Scouts?  Little League?  Build a soap-box derby car?  Those are the classic father-son kind of things people think of, not conquering Eastern Europe with tanks.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic incumbent, is assured of re-election.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Friday, October 08, 2010

The Angle of reflection

A significant part of the Republican "message" has been that our secular laws derive from a largely mythical "Judeo-Christian" system of values. Yes, the adage about strange bedfellows is true, but politics and religion, being in bed together, tend to spawn strange offspring and to dress them up as reason and decency.

Of course, it's true that a great number of our laws do reflect religious prohibitions, biases, and attitudes, and those laws often criminalize behavior that involves no harm to people or property and interferes with personal liberty, but those taboos seem to be shared by a great number of cultures which adhere to religions from Animism to Confucianism. There's little that's unique about our alleged Christian values and from the start, many of those values were at odds with our independence and our freedom. Yes, it's hard to think of a religion of any kind that has no rules of behavior but we're talking about Americans -- the people at the center of the universe who don't really think much about thinking or the necessity of reason.

So when we pass laws forbidding dancing on Friday, the observation or rejection of Christmas, the reading of certain books: when we make laws concerning who may live together, have sex together and in what way, we have illustrations of religious law intruding into secular life in America. Such things are slowly eroding and always changing, of course, but the prospect of a group that has always composed a small minority in the US: The Muslims, supporting certain religious rules within their own congregations and amongst their adherents seems to have all the bells in the national belfry ringing in discord.

Islamic religious law, says Sharon Angle, is "taking hold" in some American cities and that's a "militant terrorist situation." No, really. I suppose it's wildly different in a terrorist sort of way for Jews to forbid Pork and Lobster or cheeseburgers or to require prayer at certain times and even to mandate beards or distinctive clothing. I suppose it's not the same thing for Catholics to forbid divorce and require celibacy of certain people and distinctive clothing for the clergy. The special Mormon underwear? Prohibitions against alcohol and coffee? Is the Church of Latter Day Saints "taking over" Utah and the constitution taken to the shredder? No, there's no militant terrorist situation there. Is there really a chance that the constitution will be supplanted by the Amish Ordnung even if an area has a majority of that peaceful faith? So why are we afraid and what are we really afraid of? Why does Sharon Angle say:

"It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States"? 

Well, of course, we wouldn't pay any attention to such a person as she if she weren't outrageous, but if we were a nation that could notice that these religious rules are in no respect taking hold of municipal governments and in fact are optional personal choices in a nation that allows us to make such choices freely, perhaps Sharon Angle would be all alone in some little room raving at the walls and not on national TV farting out her fallacies, misrepresentations and hysterical lies -- and God help us, running for the U.S. Senate. Sure, there would be something fundamentally wrong, but more certainly: it isn't happening here. Religion, say the courts, gives no license to break the law whether that faith demands we strangle a wayward daughter or drag a gay man behind a pickup truck or poison our congregation with cyanide.

The key word here is "foreign." Although virtually all our religions are imported and many religious groups immigrated simply so that they could have communities with their own religious rules, Angle wants to reinforce the chauvinism of a certain kind of self-styled Christian who would be quite happy with a massively powerful government intent on substituting their own 'Christian' restrictions for our secular constitution. She is, most ironically, the best example of what she wants us to fear. Muslims and certain other people will always be "foreign" and most of us will never pause to reflect upon the horrible consequences that xenophobic, nationalistic bit of European bigotry had in the last century.

But we're not a nation of critical thinkers; at least not enough of us to give reason or even common decency a fighting chance. Bigotry, our real national religion, forbids it after all and we make demons out of people who don't want to participate or worst of all, don't want any religion forced on them.

Angle would like to pass on her contagious nightmare and indeed I know too many people who share it and who will refuse to be persuaded that even if we someday have an Ayatollah of Texas, he's not going to be able to use force to punish reprobates and infidels or have any more secular authority than an Archbishop or TV evangelist. They refuse to remember when Roman Catholics were a "foreign" religion to be feared for inquisitions and foreign rule over Americans. Somehow that "hopey-changey" thing did work our fairly well for them and for the many others who have had to contend with the Know-Nothing nativists and the Sharon Angles of their day.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dear Christine O'Donnell. You're not us. You're a liar and a fool and a repressed, self-denying puritan.

Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell:

I've put my name on the line. And I've taken a lot of hits... a lot of character assassination.

Oh, yes, so much, so very, very much...

Actually, you know you have problems when the truth, the accumulation of more and more facts about you, more and more evidence about who you are, amounts to "character assassination."

No one has made this shit up -- not the Democrats, not the media, not the many people (like me) who think she's insane. She's done what she's done and said what she's said and she has no one to blame but herself. (She says she's "matured," but all she's done is become a more focused and more partisan extremist.)

If there's character assassination going on -- and your character is either assassinated or not, there can't be more or less assassination -- it's been completely self-inflicted.

Like all those masturbators she wants to help, she's fucked herself again and again.

And now, under the microscope of a campaign getting national attention, it's all coming back to take her down.


Here, by the way, is her second TV ad. (The first was the "I'm not a witch" one -- Carl wrote about it here.) To me, it's another embarrassing failure. And an unintentionally amusing one.

She begins by saying, "I didn't go to Yale." Which is true, but she's repeatedly lied about her education, and all this does is bring all that up again.

Hey, Christine, you didn't go to Oxford or Princeton or Claremont either. That's not character assassination, that's the truth.

The theme of the ad is, "I'm you." Yes, it's the populist card. But most of us masturbate, don't we? And most of us aren't this stupid. It's just shameless pandering along the lines of Sarah Palin's anti-elitist nonsense. Even National Review's Jim Geraghty thinks it's a "misstep."

Anyway, amuse yourself...


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What's in your wallet?

By Capt. Fogg 

The prospect of foreclosure is frightening enough to the many people who are having trouble making mortgage payments and who fear losing their homes. It's frightening enough without the prospect of strange men crashing through the back door in the middle of the night. Even worse for some people here in The Sunshine State, folks who are simply a bit behind in payments but who are not in foreclosure have been treated to a surprise breaking and entering by representatives of one of those banks that love to advertise how they're on your side.

Listen to the 911 call from one frightened woman and put yourself in her position and ask yourself what you would do if the man in black kicked in your door. I certainly know what I would do, and what the law allows me to do to a possibly armed unannounced midnight caller. It would involve more than an angry letter to J.P. Morgan. The hired thugs of our friendly banking industry have done worse than frightening people half to death in a way Pauly Walnuts could only envy. There are stories of home invasions at wrong addresses and one Jason Grodensky from nearby Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with the good fortune to have no mortgage at all had his house foreclosed on by Bank of America.

What's in your wallet? 

The publicity has been bad enough that major banks are curtailing foreclosure viking raids or freezing foreclosures entirely for the moment. Nancy Pelosi and some 30 Democrats in the house are calling for an investigation in their typically socialist way and Attorney General Eric Holder has announced he will be looking into it. Bloomberg News reports that some seven states are investigating charges that false documents and signatures have been used to justify hundreds of thousands of possible fraudulent foreclosures and their attendant Viking raids against surprised and terrified homeowners. 

So it's all going to be taken care of right? The Democrats are on the side of the people and against those huge, ugly hordes of corporate Visigoths and their paper battering rams, right? They control the Senate and the House and they'd never let the Republicans rubber stamp the right of Corporate Huns to lie, cheat, and bypass every code of human decency since the Code of Hammurabi and the Proclamation of Telepinu -- right? 

Don't be too sure, because a bill that may do just that now sits on President Obama's desk that somehow oozed through our lefty, anti-business, death-to-Capitalism Congress. Stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Robert Casey used some obscure procedure to take the bill away from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate then immediately passed it without debate and by unanimous consent. There was no one in the gallery to sing "Whose side are you on?"(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The wild popularity of Sarah Palin

No, not really.

A new CBS poll fings that her favorable rating is just 22 percent. (That's late-second-term, Iraq-is-a-quagmire, the-economy-is-tanking Bush-Cheney territory.) Even among Republicans, her favorable rating is poor, at just 44 percent. Teabaggers love her, of course, but such low favorable ratings, along with an unfavorable rating of 48 percent, suggest that she is not just a divisive figure but that she is popular only on the extremist right, where of course she fits in comfortably. And while the GOP is certainly moving more and more to the right, with what was once the extreme becoming more and more the mainstream, it appears unlikely that Republicans will allow her to lead them. Even in an extremist right-wing party, after all, she turns a lot of people off.

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Angle in the gutter

Guest post by R.K. Barry

Ed. note: R.K. Barry is the real name of T.W. Wilson, recent guest blogger here at The Reaction. He has decided that he no longer wishes to be pseudonymous. I support his decision, though I realize that decisions involving one's identity are deeply personal and that many bloggers, for reasons both personal and professional, prefer not to reveal who they really are. Clearly, many of my editors, co-bloggers, and contributors do not go by their real names, and I understand why, and I support their decisions as well.


George H.W. Bush got to be President of the United States based in part on one of the worst race-baiting ads in American political history -- the infamous Willie Horton spot. Whether or not he has ever had the integrity to be ashamed of himself, we'll likely never know.

Would anyone be surprised to hear that Roger Ailes, current president of Fox News, was one of the masterminds behind the senior Bush's run for the White House?

Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle just released her own disgusting race-baiting ad. Gee, I wonder if she agonized at all over stooping so low?

Do these people have any idea how hateful they appear to others? And more to the point, if they did know, would they care?

The answer to all the questions above is "no," in case you thought this was some kind of test.

Check out Angle's ad.

(Ed. note: And, for more, see Think Progress, which finds that Angle and Louisiana Republican and fellow race-baiter David Vitter use the same photo of "illegal aliens" / "illegals" in their respective attack ads.

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Perhaps They Should Rename It The "Extremely Silly Party"

By Carl
(cf. Title Reference here. Video clip here)
We have seen witches, wackos and whiners run under the banner of the Teabaggers. Why not a wanker?

The Naked Cowboy -- Time Square's tighty-whitey wearing, guitar-toting tourist magnet -- announced he's running for President in 2012… as a member of the Tea Party.

The familiar white briefs, boots, cowboy hat, and long hair were nowhere to be seen at a press conference on Wednesday in his old haunt, Times Square. This time the underwear-sporting cowboy, whose real name is Robert John Burck, was garbed in a suit and tie with his cropped hair slicked back.

Burck, who is registered as a Republican in Ohio, slammed President Obama and declared the Tea Party was "the only legitimate grassroots movement."

"America is rapidly transforming into a government-run enterprise," the over-exposed tourist attraction said, adding that "American politicians are selling out America and its most cherished institution, that being capitalism."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkay, then!

The Teabaggers have already made a mockery of American politics. I would not have believed it possible after America re-elected a most singularly unqualified man President in 2004, or after the cock-mocking Congressional campaign of 2006. I would not have believed it possible to mock American politics particularly after the selection to a major party ticket of a woman who claims foreign policy expertise because Russian planes fly over her porch daily.

And yet, led by this self-same "diplomat," American politics has sunk to a new low: the marriage of the bread-and-circus clown car distractions of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and, quite literally, professional wrestling to the American governance process.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before parodies of politicians started laying claim to Teabagger status. After all, it's been years since porn stars ran as Republicans, thus neatly dovetailing insanity with inanity. It turns out the Teabaggers are less an expression of American anger than an expression of American psychoses.

There is room in American politics for a populist movement that truly expresses the anger of the American people over the loss of our nation. Barack Obama leveraged that anger and channeled it into a successful Presidential run and to be sure, he has neither exhausted that anger nor vented it appropriately. I do not envy him the tightrope he has to walk to appease both the people on the left and the people on the right, all of whom have only grown angrier as the economy sank under President Bush, and has only shown glimmers of life under President Obama.
Populism has never been an effective tool of the right wing of this nation, no matter which party occupies that flank. The Teabaggers schizophrenia develops out of the fact that they are beholden to corporate interests while paying lip service to the interests of working people.
Think about it: the anger over government intrusion, the anger over higher taxes, the rage over a black man in power, these all speak to corporate interests, not to populist interests. Obama has lowered taxes on 98% of the people of this country. Obama has worked hard to enforce government oversight of critical areas like banking and corporate malfeasance but has done next to nothing to abduce the rights of the general population (altho he has neither rolled back infringements on those rights).
In short, Teabaggers are the orcs of their corporate Sarumans and Saurons. Mindless rabble intent only on sacrificing their intellect and fortunes to further the interests of those who would dispose of them in a heartbeat when the situation arises.
Populism, keeping the people first, has always meant progressivism. It was progressive populism that forced the nation to deal with pollution, with civil rights, with empowering women and minorities, because as the least of us is lifted, we all rise. A rising tide does lift all boats, it's true, but if that tide is rising because of rain "trickling down", it will cost us many boats. A rising tide from the mass of gravitational attraction will safely lift us all.
The left cries out for a populist movement. The left MUST create a populist movement. The perception that the left is nothing more than an aging bunch of hippies and socialists has to be turned into a positive image, one that can attract interest and more important, support that interest. It must not be mockable the way the Teabaggers are, and the way the right-wing corporate media has managed to make "liberal" a dirty word.
Republicans and right-wingers seem to have a farm system that churns out lock-stepped limpminds like clockwork. We on the left must develop this kind of training process, but effectively, that generates effective leaders. The Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, that the Clintons helped inaugurate in the 90s went sort of nowhere, partially because of the Big Dog himself sucking all the air out of the room. Yes, it was centrist, but it was certainly better than the crap the right-wing has smeared on the walls of this nation since, and it could have spun off a truly progressive, truly populist movement.
We have to, each of us, start identifying people whom could make this happen, who could develop new philosophies of both candidacy and advocacy. The "leaders" we send out on television, from the Koses and the Marcottes to the Olbermanns and the Schultzes, they represent us partially, and partially is badly. We need to identify people who stop talking at an audience and start talking to them. We need to give people a reason to be liberal, not to run from the label.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I still don't think Sarah Palin will run for president in '12

Alaska blogger Jeanne "Mudflats" Devon has obtained "internal emails" that, in her view, "provide the most conclusive evidence to date that Palin will be running for president." Specifically, a September e-mail from Todd Palin to Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller, SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford, and Palin and Miller attorney Thomas Van Flein states that Sarah's earlier endorsement of Miller for Republican nominee (over incumbent Lisa Murkowski) shouldn't be "one sided," meaning that if she endorses him, which she did, he should endorse her. The problem is that he didn't reciprocate, instead saying, in an interview with Fox News's Neil Cavuto, that there are "a number of great candidates out there" (and dodging the question of whether Sarah is qualified to be president). This roused Todd's ire and indignation. In the e-mail, he tells Crawford to "old off on any letter of support for Joe."

I must say, this seems like much ado about not very much. While it's true that Todd seems to have wanted an endorsement of sorts from Miller, it's not clear that any endorsement -- and it's far too early for endorsements to mean anything anyway -- would have needed to have been formal. Perhaps it would have been fine if Miller had just praised Palin personally, setting her apart from the possible Republican field, instead of lumping her in with the other "great candidates" (if in fact he things she's one of them).

What we see here, once again, is that the Palins -- Todd as well as Sarah, are driven largely by pettiness and a sense of being disrespected, so utterly insecure do they seem to be (hence their constant attacks on "elites").

Is there really any indication here that Sarah is planning on running for president? Maybe, but it really doesn't appear to be at all definitive, if it's there at all. There's certainly no "strong evidence," as Devon says there is. After all, would the Palins really have wanted a "quid pro quo endorsement" from Miller at that time, so early in the game? Likely not, as any such endorsement would have been awkward and forced Sarah to address her future plans, which she has thus far been unwilling to do except through vague, non-committal comments. And were they really that "furious" with Miller that he didn't provide one? Again, all they may have wanted was a statement like, "I think Sarah Palin would make a great president." And, indeed, what Todd says specifically in the e-mail is that Sarah "put her ass on the line" with her endorsement and that Miller should have been able to "answer a simple question" -- is Sarah qualified? -- in the affirmative.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I don't think she'll run -- for a variety of reasons, including that she'd lose and that much of her highly profitable appeal would burst. Sure, she might run, and she could be talked into it, not least if the sycophants who inhabit her little bubble appeal to her massive ego and delusional belief that she's divinely qualified to be president, but I really do think she has too much to lose and that it's better for her, and her quest for ever more fame and fortune, to remain a sort of celebrity kingmaker within the Republican Party. A loss to Obama, before which she'd be placed under a high-powered microscope, could effectively ruin her plans. (She'd probably be better off waiting until '16.)

Not that I care to give Sarah any advice, and not that her best interests are of any concern to me. I just don't think she'll run and I don't see much evidence, not least in this overblown e-mail, that she's made up her mind to do so.

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Glenn Beck applauds Tennessee county and fire department that let family house burn down

Glenn Beck weighed in yesterday on the story of the Tennessee family whose house burned down, while the fire department stood idly by, because it hadn't paid the county's subscription fee for fire services. Like others on the right, he defended Obion County's policy. (I wrote about the story here.)

More than that, though, he and producer Pat Gray actually mocked the family (specifically the father, Gene Cranick), which lost three dogs and a cat in the fire, with Beck himself saying that it's just the way it ought to be:

GRAY: (mocking Cranick's accent) Even tho' I hadn't paid mah seventy five dollahs I thought dey'd put it out... I wanted 'em to put it out, but dey didn't put it out.

BECK: Here's the thing. Those that are just on raw feeling are not going to understand...

GRAY: But I thought they was gonna put the fire out anyway, but it burned down. Dat ain't right!... What's the Fire Department for if you don’t put out the fire?! I thought they'd put out mah fire even if I didn't pay seventy five dollars.

BECK: This is the sort of argument that Americans are going to have.

GRAY: It is.

BECK: And it goes nowhere if you go onto "compassion, compassion, compassion, compassion" or well, "they should've put it out, what is the fire department for?"... If you don't pay the 75 dollars then that hurts the fire department. They can't use those resources, and you'd be sponging off your neighbor's resources... It's important for America to have this debate. This is the kind of stuff that's going to have to happen, we are going to have to have these kinds of things.

This is the kind of staff that's going to have to happen... so that what? So that Americans start paying these subscription fees for vital local services? So that Americans get on board with the radical right-wing agenda and take down their own government?

Glenn Beck is -- and I realize this isn't news to many of you, nor should it be, given all the evidence he has provided -- a reprehensible human being. Back in April '08, writing about Beck's mega-assholery, I coined the word "glennbeckery" (and related words like "glennbeckism" and "glennbeckitude").

Needless to say, his view that the Cranicks basically deserved to have their home burn down, and that it's not just acceptable but desirable for similar things to be allowed to happen in a society that has turned uncivil with the rise of a vindictive, bloodthirsty conservative worldview, is another glennbeckinous glennbeckism from the glennbeckiest glennbeck of them all -- and an abhorrently ugly one.

Is this, applauding the loss of a family home, what it means for conservatives to restore honor?

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Need Ammo To Persuade Someone To Vote Democratic?

By Carl
Here ya go!

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Fat Morons In The News

By Carl
Item 1 - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hints at defunding NJ rail project. In fairness to Gov. Christie, right now he's suspended all road and rail projects in the planning stages  in order to review costs (and presumably benefits). Under any scenario, the Hudson rail tunnel project offers benefits that will far and away return much more than any potential cost overruns. Right now, NJ Transit trains are running under what amounts to a bottleneck to get tens of thousands of commuters into New York City. Trains are often delayed, and too often cancelled outright, because of a lack of easy access to New York City. An additional commuter rail tunnel from New Jersey to New York would alleviate enormous overcrowding on not only the current rail scheme but the road tunnels and bridges heading into the city.
Delays of up to an hour or more are almost daily at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. Many of those commuters would gladly take the train in if the trains themselves ran more reliably on time. Think about it: rail service in Jersey is so bad that people are willing to sacrifice two hours out of their days to travel less than ten miles, in and out!
Chris Christie believes that enslaving his populace to the Arab oil sheiks, hiking their blood pressure causing strokes and heart attacks and  is better than allowing them easy access to New York City. This might make sense if Chris Christie also had an economic development plan for the state that would create jobs that pay as well in places that offer as many amenities...amenities these commuters are exempt from paying taxes the city.
But he does not. His ideas are rusty Republican rules: lower taxes on the rich and hope for the best. Another Republican, praying the problem goes away.
Chris Christie: fat moron number 1.
Item 2 - In his column in the LA Times today, Jonah "Fudgie the Whale" Goldberg is alarmed, ALARMED, that President Obama and the people currently engaged in actually battling terrorism might have a secret assassination list.
OMG! This is terrible news! Why, this new development in the war on terror might lead to, I don't know...torture!

Yet, according to the torture prohibitionists, there must be a complete ban on anything that even looks like torture, regardless of context, even though we’d never dream of a blanket ban on killing.

One reason for this disconnect is that we’ve thought a lot about killing and barely at all about torture. Almost no one opposes killing in all circumstances; wars sometimes need to be fought — the hopelessly suffering may require relief; we reserve the right to self-defense. Indeed, the law recognizes a host of nuances when it comes to homicide, and the place where everybody draws an unambiguous line on killing is at something we call “murder.”

In other words, Fudgie was FOR assassination before he was AGAINST it!

The juice quote from Fudgie's column today?

[T]he very idea of a presidential secret assassination list is creepy in a country committed to democracy and the rule of law.

Why funny? Well, because I don't recall Jonah throwing a temper tantrum when the Bush administration was targeting US citizens. But now that the scary black Muslim is President, well, Katie bar the door! All hell is going to break loose and the Constitution be damned!

Those of us who oppose torture AND assassination did so from the beginning and didn't suddenly develop a case of situational ethics dependent upon the party in power.

Jonah Goldberg: fat moron number 2

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Reading is Fundamental

By now, everyone knows about the house in Tennessee that burned to the ground because the owners did not pay the fire protection fee. So while Rome burned, the firemen stood helpless - ordered not to put out the fire over an unpaid $75 municipal charge.

This is Ayn Rand on steroids - every John Galt for himself. Darwinian psychology in overdrive - survival of the fittest (or rather the richest and most well-connected). Government a la carte. Public services that are hated so much that everything is turned into a private enterprise - even at the expense of a normal society.

We could argue the merits of a large and sprawling public works - managed by a large and sprawling bureaucracy. We can also argue the problems and pitfalls of the nanny state and an over-reaching legislature.

What we can't argue is that the underlying premise of government is to keep order,civility and provide for a safe and secure country. That safety and security is not limited to fighting useless wars and preventing those nasty turrorists from flattening buildings. It also includes the simple things like putting out fires and protecting citizens with adequate public health.

You want a private fire department that only serves if you pay? How do you plan on stopping a fire from spreading from your neighbor who didn't feel like pay their fee. You want health care only if you can afford it? How do you plan on protecting yourself from people walking around with communicable diseases like tuberculosis and influenza - spreading them like the bubonic plague to those who do have health insurance.

Certain basic needs shouldn't even be questioned. But the angry mobs of the right have taken Ayn Rand to the extreme - that government is good for nothing, that the individual rules, that it really is every teabagger for himself. Problem is even  - the ultra-Rand mentality is only a a facade to what is really happening - what realy runs the show on the right are corporations and puppet masters like the Koch Brothers who use their incredible wealth (since they don't use it to invest or create jobs) to keep the status quo working for them. All the time they are deluding the teabag crowd into thinking this concept of rugged individualism and the Marlboro man is going to make them the next billionaire.  Good luck.

There is nothing like a good book to cuddle up when your house is burning down.  For your reading pleasure:

Maybe he teabaggers and Christian Fundamentalists can use those unattended house fires that will burn out of control for one of their other purposes - burning the books they so want to eliminate.

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Obama-Clinton '12! Wait... Hillary???!!!

Yesterday on CNN, Bob Woodward told John King that an Obama-Clinton ticket is "on the table" for 2012. "Some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012."

It makes sense, I suppose. I was one of those pushing for Obama-Clinton back in '08, if only to unite the party after a fairly brutal primary campaign, though I never saw it as much of a possibility. I thought Biden was a great pick, but he'll have had four years and the opportunity to make a mark on U.S. foreign and military policy -- his strength -- and Hillary would certainly be an exciting replacement.

And, of course, it would set Hillary up well for a presidential run in '16.

But it's not going to happen. As BTD notes at TalkLeft -- correctly, I think, though things can change quickly in politics -- the '16 nomination is hers "if she wants it no matter what." Plus, "[n]ot being Obama's VP gives her some distance in case things go way south with his Administration."

What's more, Biden's departure, which wouldn't necessarily be voluntary, would undoubtedly be spun by Republicans and the media as an admission of failure on the part of the president.

Woodward has astonishingly good sources, there's no doubt about that, but sometimes -- and this is one of those all-too-frequent times -- you have to wonder if he knows what he's talking about. Anything could be "on the table," after all, and it's possible that this is just wishful thinking on the part of a Hillary insider or two, who may very well just be using Woodward to float a seemingly crazy idea.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea, presuming that the Biden-to-Hillary transition would be managed properly (which may be too much to presume at this point), but it's highly unlikely.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

When Republicans rule, houses burn

Yes, this is what happens when Republicans are in charge -- and it's what America will be like if they and the rest of the anti-government nuts have their way:

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick's home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county's firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county's fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.

That's right, this by-subscription-only fire department let the house burn and only did something when the fire spread to a subscription-paying neighbour's house. Think Progress continues:

A local newspaper further pressed Mayor Crocker about the city's policy, which has been in place since 1990. Crocker, a Republican who was elected in 2008 and serves with a county commission where every seat is also filled by a Republican, likened the policy to buying auto insurance. The paper said he told them that, after all, "if an auto owner allowed their vehicle insurance to lapse, they would not expect an insurance company to pay for an unprotected vehicle after it was wrecked."

Yes, but if your car was burning, the fire department would put it out, at least if you live in the sort of civil society most of us prefer to live in, and, what's more, people pay taxes so that government can do what it needs to do to keep people safe and to respond to emergencies (among other things, like providing public education and making sure drinking water is safe and clean). The analogy just doesn't hold up.

And it's a pretty despicable policy. If the police see you being assaulted, do they not step in if you haven't specifically subscribed to their services? Should you not be able to turn on the tap and get clean water if you haven't subscribed to municipal water services? Should the NYPD and NYFD not have responded on 9/11, or should they only have come to the rescue of subscribers?

Please. It's insane. And it's the Republican way.

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Sign of the Apocalypse #74: Guns in bars

There's no way this will end well:

Tennessee is one of four states, along with Arizona, Georgia and Virginia, that recently enacted laws explicitly allowing loaded guns in bars. (Eighteen other states allow weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol.) The new measures in Tennessee and the three other states come after two landmark Supreme Court rulings that citizens have an individual right — not just in connection with a well-regulated militia — to keep a loaded handgun for home defense.

Experts say these laws represent the latest wave in the country's gun debate, as the gun lobby seeks, state by state, to expand the realm of guns in everyday life.

The rulings, which overturned handgun bans in Washington and Chicago, have strengthened the stance of gun rights advocates nationwide. More than 250 lawsuits now challenge various gun laws, and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, called for guns to be made legal on campuses after a shooting last week at the University of Texas, Austin, arguing that armed bystanders might have stopped the gunman. 

And, no, it's not in the Constitution, thank you very much, not if you actually think about what the Founders meant -- and if you actually read the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Please note: The "people" have a right to "bear Arms," but only because there is a need for a "well regulated" citizen militia to defend the state. 

That was 1791, shortly after a revolution, when America was young and fragile. It's now 2010. Whatever the anti-government extremists on the right might say, there's no need for citizen militias -- and there's certainly no need for people to be free to carry guns, concealed or otherwise, into bars, onto college campuses, or for the most part anywhere else.

Based on what the Second Amendment says -- read it again, if you must -- the Founders did not intend for citizens to be free to carry weapons so as to be able to shoot each other.

The pro-gun misinterpretation, if I may put it nicely, is a recipe for disaster -- for violent, bloody chaos, and that's hardly an exaggeration.

And it's only going to get worse, what with alcohol in the mix.

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Mixed Bag

By Carl
Trick AND treat! I see two stories in the news today that I feel compelled to comment on. One is pretty funny, and shows a candidate in deep trouble, the other is pretty hopeful, and shows we may have turned a corner.
First up, Christine O'Donnell. Apparently, Ms. O'Donnell has forgotten the first rule of Republican politics: never complain, never explain. She has released her first television ad in Delaware, and it's a doozy. How many candidates introduce themselves to the general population by saying "I'm not a witch"?
She's done for. Anytime a politician has to define him or herself in terms of what he or she is not, that politician is pretty much toast. That candidate has allowed the opposition to define the race, and it never ever makes sense to play in the other team's ballpark with the other team's bat and ball. You've lost before the first pitch is thrown.
"I am not a witch" will go down in history alongside "I am not a crook" and "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski" as an all-time political gaffe. If you feel compelled to spend millions of dollars in ad buys and production costs to create an introductory commercial, you've probably wasted money as it is, so your message had better be a lot more effective than reassuring the voters you won't turn them into newts if they vote for the other guy.
A better strategy for her would have been to pick one or two issues where her opponent, Chris Coons, has failed miserably in service to the people of Delaware, and then build your resume off that.
Oh. Wait. She really doesn't have a resume. Still, you need to lay out a vision for the voters that doesn't include flying monkeys.
Turning to better it possible the Israeli government is starting to get it? Benjamin Netanyahu has opened an internal dialogue amongst his cabinet about freezing West Bank settlements in an attempt to move the Middle East peace process forward.
This is the same Netanyahu who vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords as giving too much away too quickly to the Palestinians, thus solidfying his image as a hard(er)-liner on the peace process than even Yitzhak Rabin and certainly harder lined than Ehud Barak. You may recall that it was as an outgrowth of the accords that Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist. One hestitates to draw a line from Netanyahu to the killer, but they argued from the same position.  
It is conceivable that only Netanyahu could persuade the Israelis to accept a peace accord with the Palestinians, similar to how only Richard Nixon, with his policy history and hawkish stance on communism, could have opened relations with the Soviet Union and China.
It seemed unlikely when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but it seems possible that Barack Obama will actually have earned his Prize in the very near future.  
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Just how crazy is Christine O'Donnell? (4)

So utterly crazy that she wants to ratchet up the tension between China and the U.S., saying back in '06 that the two countries shouldn't be friends and implying that war is, or should be, on the way. Seriously, you can't make this shit up:

Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware said in a 2006 debate that China was plotting to take over America and claimed to have classified information about the country that she couldn't divulge.

O'Donnell's comments came as she and two other Republican candidates debated U.S. policy on China during Delaware's 2006 Senate primary, which O'Donnell ultimately lost.

She said China had a "carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America" and accused one opponent of appeasement for suggesting that the two countries were economically dependent and should find a way to be allies.

"That doesn't work," she said. "There's much I want to say. I wish I wasn't privy to some of the classified information that I am privy to."

She, however, can make a lot of shit up -- and seems to do so frequently. There is obviously no evidence of any of this, and she apparently wants the U.S. to view China as an enemy and to prepare for war -- to resist China's supposed aggressive intentions (whether military or otherwise, it's not clear).

And why is she so anti-China? Presumably, given her comments about abortion and the freedom to read The Bible, because China is un-Christian. And because, therefore, it's an easy target for her and her ignorant and fundamentalist ilk.

And because she's apparently willing to say anything and to make any shit up at any time.

And because she's a liar. And an idiot, a crazy idiot who's as embarrassing as any candidate we've ever seen on the national stage.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Obama won: Get over it

Guest post by T.W. Wilson 

Ed. note: This is the pseudonymous Mr. Wilson's fourth guest post here at The Reaction. His first three were on Glenn Beck, the right's war on the poor (and Beck's war on Frances Fox Piven), and Chris Coons and Marxism. -- MJWS


I was thinking recently about what is different now in the national politics of America than at any other time since I started paying attention almost 40 years ago. The answer, it occurred to me, is in the way that a significant percentage of the electorate have convinced themselves that the Obama presidency is illegitimate.

It is not simply that they don't like him or that they disapprove of his policies. That is certainly true, but it is not the point.

The Birthers, who have tried to argue that Obama was not born in America and is therefore not eligible to hold the office of President of the United States, under terms set out in the U.S. Constitution, were early out of the gate making the illegitimacy argument. It was foolishness, but it should have signaled what was to come.

Those who argue that Obama is a socialist who is trying to import some foreign economic regime into America are really also arguing that this disqualifies him from holding the office. For these types, socialism, however poorly defined (see my post), is tantamount to communism and precisely the kind of thing that foreign agents have tried to impose on America for years in order to destroy our way of life – or so they argue.

It's murky, but Obama instituting policies inimical to some conception of unfettered capitalism shows clearly that he is un-American and by definition illegitimate. Somehow, bailing out Wall Street came to be proof of Obama's socialist bona fides (man, that sentence is so perverse that it was almost hard to type). Saving the auto industry, pumping money into the capitalist economy to keep it afloat – all socialist actions and all proof of illegitimacy. (Note to reader: "making sense" and "being true" are not always the same thing).

And then there is this whole weird thing about the U.S Constitution. It is amazing to me how many people, who otherwise appear incapable of stringing together a complete sentence, still manage to mutter something about the fact that progressives are stealing America because they fail to abide by the strictest meaning of the American Constitution.

I do love it so when television cameras find these self-styled legal scholars at Tea Party rallies, which invariably provokes some tri-corner-hat-wearing genius to blurt out "read the Constitution!" Call me an elitist, but I have no confidence that these people have either read the document themselves or would have any clue as to its meaning or the meaning of the many decades of case law that make it the living document it must of necessity be.

If the President of the United States, they argue, runs the government in a way that is inconsistent with what they say is in the Constitution, then, by golly, he really needs to be removed. 

I was not that surprised to see the Republican Party announce in its "Pledge to America" for the 2010 campaign that it would "pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored." Republicans know full well what the electorate is thinking, or at least their slice of it, and they are not at all ashamed to pander. 

The whole point of harkening back to the Founders, I would argue, is a not-so-subtle attempt to claim that Obama and the current administration are subverting the original intention of the Founders and therefore proving their nefarious plan. (If Glenn Beck hires one more actor to play the role of a Founding Father, I will scream. I will.)

I know this whole "original intent" thing is an active debate amongst serious legal scholars. I just can't take it seriously. How many unquestioned social constructs in 21st-century America would have been incoherent in 1787? The point is that Congress and the President have specific roles in the legislative process, as do the courts, which sometimes includes striking down legislation as unconstitutional. That's the way the system works. It has nothing to do with subversion. If it did, there would have been many presidents in jail, including a lot of Republicans. 

So Birthers, and those who call Obama a socialist, and those who say that he is ignoring the Founders and subverting the Constitution, are really saying one thing: President Obama has no right to hold the job he has, and something should be done about it and more than, it seems, simply voting him out. 

To be fair, the idea of illegitimacy is not entirely new to American politics. When George W. Bush stole the 2000 presidential election by judicial fiat, many people (rightly, I believe) argued that W. was not legitimately elected. Interestingly, though, to Al Gore's credit, he ceded the most powerful job in the land because he believed that it was better for America that he accept this injustice and move on.

Can you imagine what would happen today if the situation were reversed and a Democrat "won" the White House in similar fashion? Can you imagine what would have happened if a black Democrat had won the White House in this way? It is more than a frightening thought.

But George W. Bush was never really vilified as illegitimate beyond the first few months after the election, as Obama has been, and there was undoubtedly a better argument for it in Bush's case. The same kinds of things we are seeing now just did not happen then, not with the same consistency.

Nixon's criminal activities rendered him illegitimate and he had to go. No question. But the claim that Obama's presidency is counterfeit is really about nothing. Obama is governing as a centrist Democrat doing the kinds of things Democrats have always done. Like a lot of people, I don't even think he nests very well amongst the left. Go figure.

The easiest explanation may be that a large number of Americans continue to be racist and will not accept a black man as president. Another answer, which I have argued elsewhere, is that after 9/11 many people came to consider anyone who did not buy into a grossly nativistic and blindly patriotic understanding of America as an enemy of the state. For these people, Obama represents and leads those who just won't go along with this view.

And although I can't get into it at length here, I would also argue that as the American Empire declines, a lot of people are going to demand that their political leaders tell them soothing lies about brighter days ahead. Good luck with that one. Anyone who doesn't play along is probably going to be pretty unpopular with the head-in-the-sand crowd.

Maybe none of this is all that original or all that interesting. But I have never seen a time when so many people stretched the truth so far to try and prove that a duly-elected American president, doing the job well within the rules as any reasonable person would interpret them, should not be accepted as legitimate by the country.

No easy answers, just a lot of odd stuff going on here.

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Graham Crackers, part two.

By Capt. Fogg

Franklin Graham knows what Muslims want and because they all speak with the same voice and have identical ideas, he knows that what they want is to build as many mosques and cultural centers in the US as they can, so that they can convert as many "regular" Americans to blind obedience to Sharia law as possible.

It's not fair, he proclaims, with the lie barely showing on his face, that Muslims do not allow churches in their countries, although now that we've bombed secular Iraq back into primitiveness, exiling or killing it's Christians, there may be one less Muslim country that does allow freedom of religion.

This of course, even if it really were possible to assume that those buildings weren't to serve the many Muslim faithful in the US, I'd be hard pressed to say that the many towns and cities in the US where there are more churches than Libraries, Schools and Gas stations weren't there to convert as many people to "Judeo-Christian" Bible based law and the obedience to higher fathers we hear about on the countless Christian TV channels and Fox News. Is it projection on the Younger Graham's part or a guilty conscience -- or perhaps both since he's made his fortune and career on "saving souls" as the process of badgering and threatening people into joining his "Crusades." That, in my observation, seems not to be the case for all Christian churches who will welcome most anyone but don't necessarily harass people on the street or insist that the country forbid divorce or outlaw masturbation much less demand the death penalty for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2.)

Of course the crusade to interpret the US Constitution as a Christian document, as contrary to its history as it may be, still doesn't forbid us to go beardless or eat shellfish or wear clothes sewn with a cotton blend or to approach the altar of God if we wear corrective lenses. Christians generally don't require stoning for Bible Belt proclivities like sleeping with an in-law (you can relax now, West Virginia) and frown on selling their daughters into slavery either. I can't think of a single Christian who's ever advocated stoning anyone for planting two crops in the same field -- but it's there! Yes, I'm sorry to say, Mr. Graham, that your favorite book is as much of a little shop of horrors and depravity as any other scripture; human sacrifice and all -- and you don't have much of a place to stand on when trying to slander over a billion people.

Perhaps it's as unlikely that very rich men like the Grahams will pass through the eye of a needle as that they can tell us what "the Muslims," most of whom don't live under fundamentalist, theocratic regimes are up to. Yet they keep trying and keep profiting by scapegoating and damning and hate mongering -- and lying. Sure Father Billy, 'Jews are ruining America' Graham and Son-of-Billy Franklin don't come near the lunacy of the fringe elements that are campaigning for Christian supremacy: people like Brother Nathaniel " A Christian America, not a Jewish America" Kapner. I won't link to that bastard, you'll have to look it up yourself, but such an underground exists and one would be hard pressed to prove that it represents Christianity less than Wahabbist extremists represent Muslims. Graham doesn't even try, he just pretends they're all alike, all evil -- as power and influence grow and the dollars come rolling in.

Yes, it may be true that a fundamentalist adherence to the Qur'an would seem to allow the so called honor killings, As Franklin is eager to point out, yet it's quite apparent that a literal reading of the Bible allows all kinds of violence and indeed appears to demand slaughtering women and children, stoning, slavery, prostitution and all kinds of things nearly all Christians and Jews abhor - and that includes honor killings.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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The Logical Conclusion

By Carl
Based on what little I saw of the news last week, I didn't miss much in the States. Some weather issues, a few stories about Teabaggers, and of course, Rick Sanchez calling Jon Stewart a "bigot" for surrounding himself with blacks, Muslims and women.
Go fig. There were plenty more and better reasons to fire that tub of goo than the Stewart comment. But I digress...
The story, the tragedy really, that did catch my eye was the woeful drama of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey after two fellow students webcast his sexual encounter with another man.
That Rutgers obtained the immediate cooperation of their football team to hold a moment of silence for Clementi before Saturday's game speaks well of both the u niversity administration and the football coach. Kudos, before I get into my point.
Much has been made of the homosexual aspect of this crime, labelling it a hate crime. I do not know enough about the two students charged with invading Clementi's privacy to make a judgement about that, but my suspicion is they would have webcast his encounter even if it had been heterosexual. 
And now, to my point: would this webcast had been made if we as a society hadn't created an environment of gratification thru humiliation? If we hadn't had marketed to us "illicit sex tapes" of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? If we didn't have paparazzi around to events and places specifically to take compromising photographs of stars and starlets? 
All because we as a society have a near-insatiable need to see tits, ass, and cocks?
In a society where Perez Hilton can be a celebrity because he's willing to embarrass someone else for the sake of a buck (and merely by coincidence, prove a larger moral point), isn't it a logical outcome that suddenly, everyone would want to make easy money by embarraassing their friends, acquaintances, and colleagues?
The expectation of privacy in society has become more and more narrow. The ready availability of information has given all of us the illusion of power and control over someone else, with the threaten of exposure and embarrassment held over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. It works for the good with people who are pursuing publicity, like a Carrie Prejean or a Christine O'Donnell, or yes, a Barack Obama or John Edwards. These are people who can rightly assume that everything they've ever said or done has been catalogued in the vast domain of the Internet and will come back to haunt them.
But for someone like Clementi, or you or I, someone who just wants to live out life in the relative obscurity of 330 million Americans and 6 billion citizens of the planet, this shredding of boundaries works for evil.
The two children who effectively killed Clementi will have their own accounts to settle in the world. I don't anticipate a happy life for either of them, having done this to a fellow human being. They are old enough to know better to be sure, but even if they weren't they would still be held accountable. And it speaks to the stunning change in technology that their parents could not have taught them better than this. How could they have known?
Moreover, how does a parent make a case for privacy when all around us are magazines and TV shows and websites that show that privacy in the face of a fast buck is quaint?
There is, however, a lesson for all of us in this tragedy. If we can learn it, if we can help stop the next tragedy from happening, then Clementi's death will have garnered some meaning.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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